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Bread Dinner of La Mancha

Written on May 15th, 2010 by no shouts

Do you remember the movie, “Man of La Mancha”? It was written by Miguel de Cervantes and filmed in 1972 and was about the hero, Don Quixote and his beautiful wench, who fell in love and lived “happily ever after”. Peter O’Toole played Don Quixote and a very famous Italian siren played the wench. Do you remember who played her part?

This is one of the displays I designed for the new Conway Department Store in David, based upon Don Quixote and my paella recipe. The recipe cards were available for shoppers to the housewares department on the third floor.

Castilla La Mancha is a large province south, west and east of of Madrid, Spain, and Toledo is the capitol. David and I visited La Mancha last year and we love it very much. I snapped this photo of some of La Mancha’s windmills from our fast-moving car. Remember “tilting at windmills”? It’s a lovely part of Spain, where Manchego cheese is produced, one of the finest cheeses in the world.

While there, I picked up a cookbook full of popular Spanish recipes. The shiny-paged book included maps, famous wines and typical dishes from every province, and it is full of beautiful, full-color photos of every recipe. One recipe caught my eye, MIGAS MANCHEGO or “Fried Breadcrumbs from La Mancha”. The author of the book gave this recipe 2 complete pages and claimed it was made practically all over Spain, with slight variations. For some reason, I just couldn’t see Don Quixote and his wench eating such a dinner. So, I made it myself, and it was really surprisingly delicious, once I got over the health issues.


10 slices dried bread, or equivilant
1 cup chorizo, salami, ham, serrano, bologna, or solid fish
6 slices bacon, cut into squares
1 whole garlic bulb, peeled and left in cloves
1/2 cup olive oil
salt water

Place bread in large bowl and sprinkle with salted water. Cover and leave in refrigerator overnight. I used it as as soon as the bread got mushy and it worked fine. Heat oil in a large skillet and fry the chopped bacon and meat until it begins to turn light brown. Remove, drain and put aside. Place the garlic cloves in the skillet and fry until golden brown. Add the bread and stir until it is soaked in fat. Yes, soaked in fat!

Cut up the bread by beating it with a spoon or whisk. When the bread is completely broken into small pieces, return the meat and bacon and continue beating. Add salt to taste and when the dish is ready, leave it in the pan without stirring to allow the bread to rest and a nice crust to form. Garnish with grapes, grated Manchego cheese, Spanish green olives, fresh parsley, rosemary and serve in slices.

Now, I can see how Don Quixote would love this dish, think of all the calories, cholesterol, energy, protein, fat, flavor and fullness he must have achieved eating this very popular dish from La Mancha. Try it in your own variation, it’s really very good, extremely economical and a bit weird! I’m sure Sophia Loren enjoyed it also.
Viva Espana!

Serrano Ham - Good to the Last Bite!

Written on March 2nd, 2010 by 2 shouts

My holiday Jamon Serrano has been a treat for so many people for almost three months. I’ve made dozens of gourmet dishes with it and served it to lots of guests. Many bags were filled with slices of Serrano and shared with friends and family members.

David finished slicing off the last piece of Serrano this past week and I discarded the bone, probably prematurely. I could have sawed it into several lengths and boiled it for making broth, soup, stews and many other tasty dishes. If you have ever used a leftover bone from your Jamon Serrano, please let me know how you did it.

Almost any recipe you make with ham can be made with Jamon Serrano, the premier ham from Spain. My Serrano came from Felipe Motta Wine Store in Panama City, Panama and it sat on the top of my buffet for almost 2 months, no refrigeration is needed. It was the center of attention for many gatherings, as most guests had never seen or used Serrano freshly cut from the bone.

Above, you see a photo of David’s creative “Serrano Omelet with Smokey Cheese”. Then, my “Chicken Embeded with Jamon Serrano” served with garlic mashed potatoes. I embeded Serrano and manchego cheese in wafer-thin chicken breast, wrapped it torpedo-style in GladWrap, steamed it and served it with plum sauce. This was one of my favorite dishes using Serrano.

Reflecting on the different dishes I made with this ham, “Celery Seed Potato Salad with Jamon Serrano” was my very favorite. A friend gave me this old Swedish recipe 30 years ago. It was published in the Gulfport Gourmet Cookbook in Gulfport, Florida.

Now, with a little tweaking, here it is again using Spain’s Jamon Serrano to make it my very best potato salad ever.

Celery Seed Potato Salad with Jamon Serrano

4 large potatoes, quartered
2 teaspoons celery seed
1 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2cup Jamon Serrano, thinly slice and julienne
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, hard boiled and quartered

Boil the potatoes, no need to peel them until soft. When soft, drain, cool slightly, scrape off the skins, if you like, and dice them into a large bowl. In a small mixing bowl, combine celery seed, mayonnaise, sugar, salt and Serrano. Pour over the potatoes, toss and place in shallow, fancy serving dish. Arrange eggs on top, garnish and serve.

Other articles about this particular ham are on my blog, you can see how much I enjoyed it throughout the holidays and beyond. We’re expecting a new Felipe Motta Wine Store to open soon in David and I’m sure they will stock these Spanish hams in their deli section. They’ll be hanging from the rafters as they do in the “Museum of Ham” in Madrid. If you’re looking for a special treat to serve at this year’s parties, you might consider getting a Jamon Serrano for yourself. You would love it and so would your guests!

Jamon Serrano Calzone

Written on February 4th, 2010 by 7 shouts

A reader sent me a comment that Price Smart in David, Panama sold the Jamon Serrano and that he thought it was very expensive. The price was $125 for a whole ham, probably including the stand.

At the “Museum of Ham” in Madrid, Spain, the cost was about $110, converted from Euros, which we thought was expensive at the time. But since then, I have a completely different view.

Felipe Motta’s price was $170, including the stand and I gladly paid it, knowing how much fun it would be to have such a ham for the holidays, and best of all, I knew how I could use this delectable meat throughout the first few months of the new year.

I served my Jamon Serrano thinly sliced as an hors d’oeurve on Triskets, topped with a dab of sour cream and capers.  Jamon Serrano went perfectly when chopped and sauteed with onions to fill a Spanish Omelet Supreme. Probably my favorite dish was a Spanish Grilled Cheese Sandwich using Monchego cheese, thinly sliced Serrano and sprinkles of chopped dates, yum.

But now, let’s get serious about using the last slices of your holiday Jamon Serrano by being a bit more creative.

Jamon Serrano Calzone

Pizza dough for two calzones -
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups all-purpose flour
Measure the first 5 ingredients into the bowl of your electric mixer, along with 1 cup of the flour and mix thoroughly. Cover and leave in a warm place 20 minutes. Then, add the remaining flour and knead with dough hook on your mixer, or by hand for 10 minutes. You may need to add more flour to make a soft ball that springs back when pressed lightly. Lightly oil the sides of your mixing bowl and turn the ball over to coat the surface with oil. Cover and rise in a warm place for at least 1 hour, 2 hours is better.

Filling for two calzones -
2 cups thinly sliced Jamon Serrano, julienned
2 cups white cheddar cheese, grated
1 medium tomato, diced
4 teaspoons Italian herb blend, your own special blend
Lightly toss the filling mixture in a medium-sized bowl.

When ready to assemble, sprinkle your pastry board with flour, roll half the dough into a rough circle and lay on a calzone press. Place filling in the middle and fold the press to make a perfect calzone. Trim dough and place the finished calzones on a cookie sheet sprayed with Pam. Cut 3 air vents in the tops of each calzone, let rise 10 minutes and bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes. Serve with a green salad, if you like.

Keep watching for more ways to use your Jamon Serrano, I’ll go on and on as it’s a wonderfully versatile ingredient, one that always reminds me of my visit to the Museum of Ham in Madrid. Maybe I’ll return to Spain some day soon! 
Como no?

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